Top 10 Ingredients of a Local Economy

April 23, 2013

Back in 2013 the Business Alliance for Local LIving Economies (now Common Future) shared these ingredients for a vibrant and thriving local economy, and they ring ever more true today.

1. To grow, process and distribute healthy nutritious and affordable food:

We need to know the people that grow and make our food and to have systems in place to get fresh, affordable food into underserved areas.  When we support a localized food system, we keep our dollars in the local economy and lessen our dependency on external food sources that can be damaging to both people and our environment.

2. To adopt “Buy Local First” purchasing initiatives:

Communities can thrive by thinking “Local First” in every aspect of their purchasing. Alignment of their economic development policies and buying from local sources keeps money in the community. We know there may not be a local option for everything (all you caffeine junkies know what I’m talking about), but if we make it easy for hospitals, universities and other local institutions to connect with local producers and providers, there will be greater impact.

3. To tap into community capital:

We need to unleash local money! We need local banks, investors, and community foundations to drive investment into our local businesses. Many of the most pioneering businesses and farms that are critical to a thriving local economy have the most difficult time gaining access to traditional sources of capital, so we need innovative and relationship-driven solutions for funding.

4. To unleash the talents and creativity of the whole community:

We’re not okay unless we’re all okay.  Job access, skills training, business ownership and cooperative models serve so many purposes.  They build community wealth and keep money circulating locally; they empower people through personal ownership; and they harness the collective energy of the entire community and channel it towards a greater good.

5. To make things again: 

We need to bring back local manufacturing and to be able to meet some of our needs locally.  If we start using regional resources – local people, local businesses, local products – to meet our regional needs, we support all the people that contribute to our vibrant, local economy. 

6. To use new technologies to connect people: 

Central to a vibrant local economy is having strong relationships with each other, and new technologies are creating more opportunities to get connected.  We can connect makers and growers with buyers and with each other.  People can now share spare bedrooms, services and yard tools at the click of a button.  Technology will never replace personal relationships, but it’s a wonderful way to get introduced. 

7. To foster an ethos of generosity:

At the center of everything, we need to create communities that want the best for each other.  Developing personal relationships and establishing trust is one of the most important elements of a vibrant, local economy, and leading with generosity can be powerful way to start. 

8. To have community-produced energy:

More solar panels on our rooftops. Everyone should be able to invest in solar panels for their homes, apartments and office buildings. The ability to invest our money into solar energy projects is paramount.

9. To live and work in harmony with the natural world:

There are countless innovations that are inspired by nature. Economic systems can be designed like living systems in which there is no waste, but rather every output becomes a nutrient to another subsystem.

10. To connect leaders and spread solutions:

There will be hundreds of local business networks, incubators, hubs, and people to learn from in your community, so connecting people in meaningful ways to share ideas and spread innovation is key to our learning and momentum. Let's talk openly about what worked and what didn’t. Create gathering spaces that bring people together and foster collective work at all levels. We are better together!